Civil War II began with an excellent debut issue. I was surprised how much I enjoyed Civil War II #1. Unfortunately, it has been all down hill since that issue. Civil War II #2 and Civil War II #3 has seen this “big” event de-evolve into a shallow and decompressed mess of a read. Civil War II has been the most disappointing big event since Siege. Can Bendis rebound and return to form and deliver a quality read with depth and plenty of plot progression in Civil War II #4? Let’s find out.
Words: Brian Bendis
Art: David Marquez
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin on the Triskelion with Carol visiting She-Hulk in the Medical Center. (She-Hulk?! Are we going to finally find out if she died at the end of Civil War II #1? Talk about a dangling plot line.)
Carol asks if She-Hulk is awake and if she has spoken with anyone. (Oh, soooo She-Hulk is alive? And this was told to us in the pages of Civil War II when?) Carol enters She-Hulk’s room. Carol recounts their mission against Thanos where Rhodey died and She-Hulk got badly injured.
Carol then says that she has some news about Bruce Banner. Carol says that Bruce is dead. She-Hulk says that Bruce is not dead. That he is the Hulk. Carol says that Hawkeye killed Bruce. She-Hulk says that is impossible. Carol then says that Hawkeye was put on trial for the murder of Bruce Banner. Carol says that they just got the verdict. We then get SEVEN panels of She-Hulk asking “And?” and Carol just sitting there. (Why do in one panel what you can do in seven? Bendis brilliance at its best. And, yes, everyone wants to burn three pages delivering zero content at all in an “exciting” big event comic. Bravo. stands and gives a golf clap)
And we cut away from that scene and go to Times Square with one of the giant video screens beaming the news broadcast of Hawkeye receiving a “Not Guilty” verdict. (Yup. Why deliver the pay-off of She-Hulk’s reaction to this news after wasting three pages building up to it? Nobody wants to read that! Instead, readers would rather see Bendis’ pet character, who has no connection to Bruce or Hawkeye, watch the news being delivered. Seriously. I cannot make this stuff up. Bendis’ writing on Civil War II is like a handbook of what NOT to do for aspiring writers.)
We see Miles Morales watching the news unfold on the screens in Times Square. (Is Peter Parker dead? Have we seen him at all during Civil War II? Oh, maybe he is just dead to Bendis.) A reporter asks an analyst if they have ever seen anything like this before. The analyst says no one has. (Wait, what? People accused of murder walk all the time! And it even happens with celebrities, O.J. Simpson, for example. Seriously? Does Bendis ever engage his brain before writing his stories?)
The reporter continues that, according to polls, the American public agrees with the verdict. (Uh, okay. So…where is the drama involved with this verdict?) The reporter says that some people viewed the killing as assisted suicide. (Topical!!) Other people are just happy that the Hulk is gone. (Which….he is not. Because Cho is running around as the Hulk. Honestly, it’s like Bendis writes his stories with his brain disengaged and in a vacuum.)
We cut to Tony in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse and in his Iron Man armor but with his helmet off. (Is Tony back to being a drunk and living in flophouses?) Tony talks to someone off panel. Tony says that he is lost and he needs this person’s help. Tony then proceeds to rehash the origin story of Ulysses and how his powers and visions work for roughly the 500th time.
Tony does not believe that the future is written. Tony says that he scanned Ulysses’ brain. The scan revealed that Tony was right all along. Tony unveils a hologram of Ulysses brain. Tony says that Ulysses absorbs all of the data and energies cascading over the entire world. That everything and everyone in the world puts out energy. (This makes no sense. This has to be the most shallow and pathetic attempt at pseudo-science. This is Bendis explaining how the visions work by saying “Blah blah who really cares let’s just move on to more of my “cool” dialogue.” This is like the Anti-Johnathan Hickman pseudo-science.)
Ulysses takes this energy and spouts it back at everyone in the form of his visions. But, they are just theoretical visions of the future. Ulysses is not seeing the future. Because it is not there. He is just creating an algorithm of a possible future. That in the end it is math. Guesswork.
We cut to Carol and SHIELD arriving outside an office building and arresting a business woman. They grab her briefcase. The woman is handcuffed and carried away.
During this scene, Tony narrates that Ulysses’ visions are simply profiling. Profiling their future. And Carol acting on the visions as if they were the gospel makes her profiling individuals. Carol thinks the math is absolute. But it is not.
Carol opens the briefcase and is stunned that it is empty. She shows it to Ulysses. Tony says that free will is bring eliminated from the process of choice. That nobody in the visions has accountability for themselves. And without personal accountability what are we?
Tony wonders as Ulysses power grows is it becoming more accurate or less accurate. Tony then asks the person off panel to tell him if he is crazy. To tell him if he is wrong. If the person tells him that then Tony swears he will give up. He will stop. Because after all of these years Tony has finally learned to listen to Steve Rogers.
We pan back and see a table with Captain Nazi, Dr. Strange, Medusa, Black Bolt, Beast, Black Panther and Carol all seated. (The Illuminati returns.) Captain Nazi asks Tony if he is absolutely sure about what he just told them. Tony answers that he is positive.
Tony says that the last time there was such a strong moral line in the sand between Steve and Tony…Tony’s voice trails off and then continues that he does not want to do anything like that every again. Not with Steve. Not with Carol. Not with anyone.
Captain Nazi asks Carol for her position. Carol says that she wants Beast to look at Tony’s work. This will make Carol trust Tony’s work. Beast answers that he has already reviewed Tony’s work. Beast says that Tony is right.
Tony asks Carol what she is going to do. Carol responds that if she is told that a person is about to open fire on a crowd that she is not going to wait for that person to start shooting before she acts. Tony asks what if it is only an 80% chance of the shooting occurring. Tony then asks what if it is just a 60% chance. A 40% chance. What if it was only a 10% chance that the vision was right.
Carol replies that if there was only a 10% chance that Thanos was going to get his hands on a cosmic cube then that is more than enough for her. Tony is stunned and says that these visions are not what Carol thought they were. Carol says that Rhodey would agree with her. Tony replies “Well…I’d ask him, but…”
Carol then says she is done and tells Tony to back off. Carols then smashes through the roof of the room and takes off. (Yeah, Carol has completed a full heel turn with this scene. She is now one of the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe.)
Tony replied “I knew the probability of her doing that.” (And….there it is. The inappropriately timed Bendis “humor” that always ruins a “dramatic” scene. Lovely.) Tony asks Captain Nazi if he is crazy about this. Captain Nazi replies “Not entirely.” Tony asks “But it’s not her call, right?” Beast replies “Is it yours?” (Huhbuthwat? Sooo, the proper response is to just do nothing? Bendis is trying to artificially create doubt in the reader as to if Tony is in the right or not despite completely writing Carol as the clear villain in the “moral conundrum.”)
Tony says that he is going to have to go public with what he knows. Medusa looks displeased. She and Black Bolt exchange glances.
We cut to the Triskelion with the business woman who was arrested earlier still in custody. We see the woman alone in an interrogation room. Black Panther and Maria Hill are watching the woman through a large one way mirror.
Carol enters and asks for an update. Hill says that SHIELD agents scoured her office and home and found nothing. That the woman is a banker and she has no connections to any organization on SHIELD’s watch list. Hill says that they cannot hold her any longer. Hill says that her fiancé is going nuts over her still being held in custody. That her father is a Chicago police officer. That they have both already gone to the press.
Carol then enters the interrogation room. The woman, who we learn is named Miss Green (Ha! Green! And she is a banker! Green like money! So witty.) demands to be released. Carol asks if Green knows what Hydra is. Carol accuses Green of being a deep-cover operative for Hydra who is working on a plot to destroy the financial institutions that hold the country together.
Green denies Carol’s allegations. Carol goes into full KGB mode and says that Green’s confession today will reflect well at her trial. Carols says that she wants details, names and places.
Green says that she is a banker. That her briefcase was empty because it was an old one and she was switching it out with a new one that she left at home.
Carol responds that she has the legal right to hold Green in the Triskelion indefinitely. (What legal system is in place in America in the Marvel Universe? Marvel always touts how “realistic” the Marvel Universe is and that it is like super heroes are existing in our reality. Has Bendis shown us the legal authority in the pages of Civil War II for Carol to do this?)
Green responds that she is innocent and she demands to be released. That she demands a phone call. Carol leaves the room and goes back to the room next door where Hill and Black Panther are located. Hill says that Carol needs proof.
Suddenly, we see Nightcrawler teleport into the interrogation room, grab Green, and then teleport out of the interrogation room. Hill orders the Triskelion to go into full lockdown mode. Carol orders for her team to get ready to deploy against Tony.
Hill then informs Carol that Tony is on the rooftop of the Triskelion. We cut to the roof with Carol and her team of jackbooted thug super villains behind her. We see Iron Man standing there with his team of freedom fighter super heroes behind him.
Carol says that Tony is under arrest. Tony responds “Good luck with that.” Tony says that Carol’s team is out-powered by Tony’s team. Tony tells Carol to stand down. Carol responds “Out-powered? Hardly.”
We then see the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive on the scene. (Which makes zero sense at all. The ultimate band of rebels, criminals and misfits working for a fascist government thug like Carol? Yeah, right.) Carol says that she has friends all of the place. End of issue.
The Good: David Marquez deserves some sort of badge of honor for his work on Civil War II. Once again, Bendis gives Marquez next to nothing to work with. Marquez has to take a shallow and decompressed story with zero plot progression and zero action and try to actually make something that looks visually appealing. Make no mistake, that is an extremely tough task for an artist. But, Marquez does it. Despite the fact that Civil War II #4 has as much nutritional value as a piece of styrofoam, Marquez manages to make this a beautiful looking issue.
Marquez takes a thin script with little substance and no action and still manages to breathe some life into it. Marquez delivers some fantastic facial expressions for the various characters. This enables Marquez to inject some emotion into a script that is nothing more than the literary version of a zombie. I love all of the character expressions. It helps to convey the intensity of the various emotions. From Tony’s frustration and sadness to She-Hulk’s fury to Carol’s indignation and sneering fascist attitude. Marquez is deftly able to fill in the gaps in Bendis’ script.
Marquez also manages to make this issue as creatively laid out as possible for a story that only gave him page after page of tired dialogue heavy scenes. Marquez takes the challenge and manages to make Civil War #4 as interesting looking as possible for a comic with nothing but endless dull dialogue.
The Bad: Civil War II #4 is another atrocious read. I am stunned at how awful this big event has become. I had tempered my expectations for Civil War II due to the fact that Bendis’ big events ranged from average in House of M to below average with Secret Invasion to a total miss with Siege. Bendis has never been a writer whose talents lend to writing a big event. That is absolutely no knock on Bendis. What made Bendis so fantastic on Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man is exactly why Bendis is such a poor choice for a big event.
Bendis has never demonstrated the ability to deliver a story on a grand scale that has an epic feel that is a requisite for a big event. Bendis has never been able to deliver high-octane action that is also a necessary ingredient for big events. Bendis has never been able to handle a large roster of characters which is another vital aspect of a big event. Lastly, Bendis has never been able to properly plot multiple complex plot lines at one time and deliver them in a well paced story which are both necessary ingredients to a big event.
Bendis is a fantastic match for a comic book that is a solo title and centers on a street level character that delivers stories based mostly on dialogue and character moments. But, for a big event? Bendis comes across as utterly clueless and outclassed.
Civil War II #4 is another atrociously plotted and paced issue. It is stunning how bad this issue is in both areas. Once again, Bendis delivers absolutely no plot progression at all with Civil War II #4. The story is ridiculously decompressed. It is becoming laughable at this point how slow the story has become and how little plot progression there has been. The plotting has no direction or goal at all. Bendis simply meanders from page to page with zero sense of urgency or purpose.
Civil War II #4 opens with Bendis burning six pages to tell us the verdict in Hawkeye’s murder trial. That is stunning. This would have been far more effective and powerful if delivered in half the number of pages. Bendis then burns three pages recapping moral debate between Tony and Carol and rehashing how Ulysses’ visions operate. At this point, Bendis is nine pages into Civil War II #4 and has delivered zero new content. That is inexcusable.
Bendis then burns seven pages telling the reader that Tony is right about his concerns with the accuracy of Ulysses’ visions and that Carol should be the one who is told by the Illuminati to stop. These seven pages barely qualify as new content since it mostly rehashes the well-worn debate between Tony and Carol that we have already gotten over the past three issues.
Bendis then uses two pages to have Carol continuing Miss Green which was nothing more than two pages of set-up for the “exciting” final scene of the issue. Then Bendis delivers the final five pages of the issue that gives us Nightcrawler’s daring rescue of Miss Green, the standoff between Carol’s team and Tony’s team and the “surprise” appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
All in all, the only new real and interesting content that Bendis delivers in Civil War II #4 are the final 5 pages. The rest of the issue is just rehashing and recycling what Bendis has already told us. And even the final scene was less than impressive as it was nothing more than a set-up for the next issue and Bendis assembled the two warring armies and had then face off against each other. Nothing actually happened in those final five pages.
And that is one of the biggest sins of Civil War II #4. Nothing happens in this issue. We find out that Hawkeye was found not guilty and that Carol is not going to stop using Ulysses’ visions to stop crime and Tony has decided to assemble his own team to stop Carol. That is it. Honestly, readers only need to read the final five pages of Civil War II #4. The rest of the issue merely Bendis fluffing up the story and wasting time in order to stretch his thin story out across the entire issue.
Civil War II continues to only have one real plot line: the moral debate between Tony and Carol on what to do with Ulysses’ visions. Building an entire big event around just one plot line is a large reason why this story has come across as so shallow. What makes it even worse is that Bendis does not even spend any time actually meticulously crafting his one single plot line to this story.
Bendis lazily delivers the moral debate between Tony and Carol in a fashion that does not engage the reader’s mind. Bendis does not make this moral debate complex or difficult that places the reader in a position where they are unsure if they want to side with Tony or with Carol. Such situations where the reader is torn on who to side with always makes for engaging and enthralling stories. Those types of stories that make the reader actively struggle with the central debate gets the reader truly invested in the story and fully immersed in the complexities and details of the debate.
Unfortunately, Bendis takes a cursory and shallow take on the moral debate between Carol and Tony. Bendis delivers an overly simplified take on the debate that clearly frames Tony as the hero and Carol as the villain. Since the decision is quite simple the reader never gets fully engaged by the debate.
The only other new content other than the ending is Tony revealing how Ulysses’ visions work. The only problem is that this was built up to be a big deal over the course of the first three issues. However, what Bendis delivered was anti-climactic and cursory at best. Instead of revealing something complex and captivating concerning how Ulysses’ powers work Bendis punts on the plot line and delivers one of the most lazy and uncreative explanations. Basically, Bendis just says that Ulysses absorbs all the energy from everyone and everything on the planet. And that is what powers his ability to have his visions. That’s it. Seriously. That’s it. This is made even more pathetic when contrasted with the excellent pseudo-science that we received in the previous big event in Secret Wars from Johnathan Hickman. Seriously, it seems like Bendis is doing nothing more than accepting a paycheck and mailing it in with Civil War II.
It is also shocking how repetitious the story on Civil War II has been. Bendis has practically given the readers the same issue over and over and over for the past three issues. I cannot remember the last time I have seen a writer lazily recycle the same story and dialogue over the course of three issues.
The repetitious nature of the story and the dialogue in Civil War II #4 only serves to emphasis how incredibly thin and shallow the story is for this big event. Bendis has delivered a story that lacks any depth or substance at all. There really is nothing at all to this story. There is nothing more than one single plot line: The moral debate between Tony and Carol. That is it. There is very little in the way of actual substance for the reader to become immersed in. If Secret Wars was an Olympic sized pool with the rich depth and complexity of its story then Civil War II is nothing more than a cheap plastic kiddie pool from Wal-Mart.
Civil War II #4 presents to the reader literally no action at all. None. Zero. Nada. This is one incredibly dull and boring read. Big events do not have to be non-stop action from cover to cover. But, big events are the comic book version of the Hollywood summer blockbuster movie. So, action is definitely a critical ingredient to any quality big event. Bendis continues to fail to deliver anything at all that would even remotely be confused with action. Instead, Bendis appears content to put the reader to sleep with another dry boring read.
Bendis serves up another helping of bland dialogue in Civil War II #4. The reader is doused in plenty of rambling and meandering dialogue rehashing well-worn ground and lacking in any direction or purpose. All of the characters speak in the same “Bendis speak” external voice. Characters take forever hemming and hawing excessively in trying to convey the most basic information to the reader.
Civil War II #4 also delivers very little character work. Which is stunning for an issue that avoids any action and focuses on nothing but scenes full of talking heads. This is largely a result of everyone possessing a similar external voice and personality.
Bendis also employs is trademark “witty” lines at the most inappropriate times. This is another reoccurring problem with Civil War II. In this issue, Bendis delivers a fairly heavy and dramatic scene with Tony calling out Carol in front of the Illuminati. This is supposed to be a powerful and important scene. This is definitely not a funny moment. And none of the characters are treating this situation lightly. This scene also deals with a tough moral debate that is shaking the Marvel Universe to its very core. But, the minute Carol leaves, Bendis has Tony cracking jokes.
This only serves to rip the reader out of the scene. If the author, by extension through the characters, cannot take a scene seriously then there is no reason for the reader to do so. Bendis treats this supposedly dramatic moment as something to be chuckled at cues the reader to not take anything that serious, either.
Civil War II #4 also suffers from the same lack of internal logic that plagued the prior issues. Bendis has the reporters react to Hawkeye being found not guilty like it is something that has never happened before. Which is such a silly position to take. People walk on murder charges all the time. Famous people and just normal “regular” people.
Bendis then has the reporters talking about how excited some people are about the Hulk finally being gone and no longer a threat. Except, we still have the Hulk running around America in the form of Amadeus Cho. This type of sloppy internal logic just makes Bendis look silly, ruins any credibility of the story and continually pulls the reader out of the story.
Bendis also has Carol telling Miss Green that Carol can hold her in custody indefinitely. Again, if a writer wants to take a serious detour from how the basic laws and rights in America operate then the writer must explain that fact to the reader. At no point did Bendis tell the reader that Carol has been armed with new legal authority that allows her to directly violate an individual’s Constitutional rights found in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eight Amendments.
When a writer seeks to conflict with the most basic core legal rights that exist in the reader’s world then that writer had better have come up with a logical explanation. Here, Bendis fails to do so. It would have been as simple as coming up with a plot line where Carol and/or SHIELD received special legal authority. Actually, I do not think that Bendis could even come up with a logic reason for Carol to be granted that type of legal authority.
This goes to show that Bendis simply ignores basic logic and facts in order to carry out his lazily written story. The lack of internal logic causes the reader to be ripped out of the story. It causes the reader to not take the story seriously and prevents the reader from truly becoming immersed in the story.
Overall: Civil War II #4 is another poor read. It is stunning how little actual new content Bendis delivers to the reader with the issue. That is even further compounded by the fact that nothing much really happens at all and that we get zero action. This is a slow, boring and unappealing issue. And the fact that all of this comes with a ridiculous $5.00 cover price? Insane. There is no reason for any reader, other than die-hard Bendis fans, to spend their hard-earned money on Civil War II #4. If you love big events crammed full of interesting plot lines and plenty of action and adventure then definitely look elsewhere. There is nothing here in Civil War II #4 that will satisfy you.